Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Netiquette - Core Pricipals of Punctuation - Commas, Periods, Repeat Punctuation

        The following blog on punctuation is not intended as a reference work. Simply, it is a brief overview to remind and encourage users to be aware of the basic uses of punctuation, as they are a vital part of Netiquette.  

One of the most overlooked aspects of email is punctuation. If used thoughtfully and properly punctuation will add readability to one’s correspondence. If underused or not used at all, its misuse can contribute to misunderstanding data, content, or intention. Additionally, proper punctuation adds both a professional appearance and sense of personalization and concern for the recipient.


Always have a period (or sentence-ending punctuation mark) at the end of a sentence in the body of an email. Periods are not necessary in message description fields unless there are two sentences. Be careful not to have a misplaced period. This may cause some spelling and grammar checks to insert a capital letter for the succeeding word. The period or full stop may only be a dot, but what a powerful dot! It is used to separate sentences. Reading a passage not delimited with periods would be extremely tiresome, and the meaning would become quite ambiguous. So, one must remember, whether the sentence is short or long, it must conclude with a period (or other sentence-ending punctuation mark. Periods have also been used traditionally to indicate an abbreviation: for example, a.m. and p.m. In modern usage, however, this is becoming more infrequent, and abbreviations now regularly appear without periods: for example, am and pm.


        These marks represent the most errors in virtually any written communications. They can be underused, overused, or even both. The use of commas should be kept at a minimum in emails. The appearance of too many may mean there are sentences that are too long, more modifiers than are needed, or a combination of both. If one follows a simple set of rules for use of commas consistently, the quality of emails will be improved. Mastering the versatile comma can transform one’s writing. Here is a brief list of some of its most important functions:

On the stationery order, pencils, erasers, pens, staples, paper clips, and notepads were listed.

To set apart persons and names

John, what are you doing here?

Adding an additional thought

The wedding was, on the whole, very enjoyable.

To set off comparisons
The louder she spoke, the more he shouted.

Repeat punctuation

        Ellipses, which are a connected series of three periods or dots (…), are fine when used properly, and they can enhance the tone or composition of a communication. For other punctuation marks, repetition should not be used. The most common abuse of this is with exclamation points (!!!) and question marks (???). These should be avoided because even with the most sincere intentions, using these can connote a sense of anger, condescension, impatience, or sarcasm. Multiple uses of exclamation points or question marks are rarely applied in business communication or literature. The three-dot ellipsis is primarily used to indicate missing words or phrases. It can be subtly used in these instances to indicate an unfinished thought.

An implied word or phrase the reader is expected to know.

He was about to jump, but then he thought….
Words or phrases omitted from a quotation

When asked why he was afraid of flying he said, “What…goes up, must…”
Disjointed speech
He was so shocked, he could only mumble, “What the…I mean to say…Where in the …”

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In addition to this blog, I have authored the premiere book on Netiquette, " Netiquette IQ - A Comprehensive Guide to Improve, Enhance and Add Power to Your Email". You can view my profile, reviews of the book and content excerpts at:

 If you would like to listen to experts in all aspects of Netiquette and communication, try my radio show on BlogtalkRadio  and an online newsletter via have established Netiquette discussion groups with Linkedin and  Yahoo I am also a member of the International Business Etiquette and Protocol Group and Minding Manners among others. I regularly consult for the Gerson Lehrman Group, a worldwide network of subject matter experts and I have been contributing to the blogs Everything Email and emailmonday . My work has appeared in numerous publications and I have presented to groups such as The Breakfast Club of NJ Rider University and  PSG of Mercer County, NJ.